Nothing’s changed. NOTHING.
It’s wonderfully easy to stay in your safe space of 20 people.
All match and meld.
That’s a cocoon.
You’re going to have to squeeze yourself out of it, painfully, before the beauty becomes vaguely viable.
Before people breathe sighs of joy at your vivid colours;
and the risk of being squished to death is truly over.
Face it – nobody truly believes your caterpillar ooze has any value. It’s only the perfect butterfly they want.
Happy f^cking international women’s day, or month, or whatever ‘they’ have given us.
A whole gender. Still in a minority budget.
And that’s where I wanted to leave it….
My obligatory IWD post.
Then I did something truly uncomfortable.
I started to write this version 👇
March makes a year.
No, not of pandemic living 🙄
Of forcing myself to take baby steps into doing uncomfortable things. Heck, like most of the world.
But this is about me. Stay with me.
I didn’t make a Shonda Rhimes-like public commitment, and eloquently TedTalk it to the world, no. It was a bit more organic (marketer side-jokes FTW 🤛).
I talked to people.
A LOT OF PEOPLE.
It started safe.
Friends, family, clients, partners.
Then acquaintances, long lost peeps, introductions.
Then complete strangers on the interwebs. Because, you know, like any user of substance I overdosed to see what that feels like.
IT WAS NOT GOOD.
(But we’re not at that part of the story yet, hello! I’m not Seth Godin. Not quite quick or famous enough. So you get the SLOW BURN story. Lucky you.)
The escalating loss of footing was not clear to me as I went.
You know, when you’re on a slippery trail and refuse to fully absorb the danger till you are truly out of options? Yeah that.
I went to a few intimate virtual events. (I like ‘em small and powerful)
Then a few networking groups.
Then a few ‘leave-it-to-the-algorithm-gods’ matches.
Dang, we overcame ‘arranged marriage’ as Indian-Born GenXers, but apparently I’ll take my business matches arranged AF. Go dissect that one, freud-lover. Tell me what comes up.
Then I played with the boundaries of journalism.
If the fake news-ers, and the right wing alarmists get to colour their facts with a thick, warm cloak of opinion, surely I have the same right? Democracy and all that.
When you decide to look at the news around you and have an opinion on it, that’s when the trouble begins.
It started slow; little wonder there. Our microscopic, safe networks contributed by alerting us to news, applauding, amplifying…
I’ve always intrinsically believed that if the communicators – the bards, the lyricists, the artists – stay out of the really important stuff, humanity is f^cked.
And that includes politics and god.
As I went further and further into stranger-ville and truly took myself out of my cocoon, I noticed things.
Cohorts of marketing/martech founders in which I was typically the only female. I made jokes about hanging out once again with ‘2 Peters, 3 Mikes, and a John’. Or ‘Chad, Brad and Tyler’ if it was a younger-skewing software bro network. (There are men with all those names that I know and respect – well not Chad, but the rest. So don’t come at me for the cliches. I’ve heard enough ‘Lakisha’ and ‘Kamala’ slurs to know how to dish it back sometimes. – Pre Ms Harris obvs. Kudos to the powerful switch on that slur. Call me Kamala anytime now.)
In a particularly large group of 100 founders, I got this message. I left the date in so you see how recent. February of this year.
‘Nice to see another woman in the group’.
You can’t make this shit up, people ☠️👎
Then came an active trolling incident. My first.
Because I dared share what I thought about a bunch of archaic Dr. Seuss books being pulled by the publisher for racist content.
(“helpers who all wear their eyes as a slant” from “countries no one can spell” – If I Ran the Zoo/Dr. Seuss. I just don’t see how that rhetoric can continue. And wanting to celebrate it as “history” actively confuses me.)
The number of people who came for me shocked me a little.
Not BOTs. Because they talked amongst themselves and high fived each other’s perspectives.
I had racism mansplained to me.
I got called a Nazi for banning books.
I got told to stop gangster rap because I was giving that a pass.
I got read a limerick called ‘racist sham’ to the tune of ‘Green eggs and ham’. Complete with iambic pentameter and repetitive ‘Sam I am’ usage.
After a bit, I stopped looking. Roadkill is not for me.
(These are not ‘uneducated hicks’ my friend. Never underestimate the power of nostalgia.)
Nothing changes on it’s own.
And when I leave my privileged ‘safe spaces’ I truly see that. I resolved last Wednesday to keep leaving my safety MUCH more; however much it hurts.
What is up with the dark cynicism, Susan?
Is there a message of hope here?
I hope so.
I am a deeply hopeful person.
It’s what makes me strive to be
adventurer-like with places,
anthropologist-like with people,
and academic-like with patterns.
And here is my message.
Get out of the cocoon.
The real world lives there.
Being ‘the change’ is not optional anymore. It’s 2021.
Go where there is no one like you. Ask why.
Take space. Lots of it.
Have opinions. Strong ones.
Find your wing-people. A network of strong, loyal nodes that will kill for you. You’ll need that.
Get out of the cocoon.
And when you leave, you’ll be heavy from the cocoon. The ooze will keep you slow and easily hurt. Everything will feel dangerous. You’ll want to come back in.
Let the air dry your wings and make them stronger.
Let the flowers feed you.
Let your magnificence enthrall.